# A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Miscellaneous - Ottawa, 7/7/2003-13/7/2003

  by Andrew Carver

published: 18 / 7 / 2003

Miscellaneous - Ottawa,  7/7/2003-13/7/2003


...while on the remaining 7 he takes in such other delights as Nina Nastasia, the Shanks and the Sights and watches the festival brought to a gritty close by the Dirtbombs

Thursday, July 10 I took a pass on the “big-name” artists who performed on the mainstage Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday (Sum 41, Sheryl Crow and Great Big Sea). But I was really looking forward to Thursday’s opening act: Detroit’s the Paybacks. The band has a formidable live reputation, and 'Knock Loud' was one of the best albums of 2002; the punchy quartet more than lived up to expectations with a bristling set of 1970s-influenced hard rock. Gravel-voiced singer-guitarist Wendy Case sounds just as tough live as on record, and best of all, new guitarist Danny Methric more than fills the departed Mark Delicato’s large shoes; he’s not just an excellent musician but a lively stage presence as well, constantly grinning, shaking his floppy hair and leaping from the drum riser without any perceptible effect on his playing. As on record, the Paybacks’ rhythm section is drum-head tight. Along with several of the fine songs from 'Knock Loud' the band featured some new material from their next album; one number, acknowledging that Case is that woman your mother warned you about and boasting the refrain “They were talking ‘bout me!” was a highlight, as was their debut’s title track. The band encored with their sole cover of the night, Cheap Trick’s 'Stiff Competition'. I once again passed on the main stage act (Kool and the Gang — what can I say, I’m a George Clinton man ...), waiting instead for California stoner rock power trio Nebula. Nebula mainstays guitarist Eddie Glass and drummer Ruben Romano have acquired a new bassist, Denis Wilson, who demonstrated some truly awesome fingerpicking during a festival-appropriate cover of Sonny Boy Williamson’s 'Good Morning Little School Girl'. The other memorable number of the night was sung by Romano, 'So It Goes' a tune he wrote for Nebula’s upcoming album “Atomic Ritual'. Otherwise, Glass handled the vocal duties; he’s a fabulous guitarist, but only an average vocalist. The band was also somewhat hampered by using borrowed equipment (Romano didn’t even have a gong — sacrilege!). None of this, however. prevented the audience from enjoying Nebula’s heavy duty rock (or Glass’s guitar-tossing antics). Friday, July 11 The Birdman Stage turned off the rock’n’roll highway for the trackless waste of the heart (and Arizona) with performances by Nina Nastasia and band, and a solo performance by Howe Gelb. New Yorker Nastasia has been winning praise for her heartbreaking songs of simultaneous repulsion and attraction. Her understated, spellbinding performance (reminiscent of a focused Cat Power) was aided considerably by her just-right band, which boasts the rumpled presence of Dirty 3 drummer Jim White, along with an excellent bassist, a fiddler, an accordionist and a cellist, all of them careful to chip in only when the song required. Howe Gelb’s entertaining performance relied less on the music, most of which was quite good, as on his between- (and occasionally during) song banter. He interspersed his singing and playing — on a battered Gretsch Sierra acoustic guitar and a very modern Yamaha electric piano — with amusing remarks and bursts of music from various CDs (Ray Charles, Miles Davis and Brit folkie Scout Niblett all featured). He toyed with a slapback pedal and a bit of prerecorded music on the piano, joked about the motorcyclists revving their engines on nearby Elgin St. — “I paid them to do that ... right on time!” The most satisfying musical moments came when Jim White and violinist Dylan Willemsa from Nina Nastasia’s band joined him on stage. It all sounded good, but the only tune I recognized was a cover of X’s 'Johnny Hit and Run Paulene.' As his set drew to a close, a single leaf fell onto his guitar from the tree overhanging the stage. “Thank you,” said Gelb “That’s a sign that I’ve got to leave ....” Between Nastasia and Gelb I wandered over to the main stage to watch the Allman Brothers along with 20,000 other people — many of them outlaw bikers, it seemed. There’s only one Allman brother left (and no Dickie Betts) but they still sounded excellent; age suits them, as it does some bands. Saturday, July 12 Ottawa garage rockers the Glads began the proceedings with their pilfered 1960's riffs and raucous guitar power. The four bandmembers are veterans of several local rock acts, and kicked up a fuss with considerable ability despite a steady drizzle of rain. Then it was time for Le Nombre to kick out their ferocious high-energy rock. Alternately sharp and pummelling guitars and an agile, supersolid rhythm section made it plain that they are Canada’s best rock band. And that was just during their soundcheck. When they actually got down to business, they kicked out the jams even harder. Leonine singer Ludwig Wax was his usual rambunctious self, defying the threat of electrocution by stamping and rolling around in the rain puddles on the stage and sliding down the metal bannister of the stage stairs. Fortunately, the only people who were electrified during Le Nombre’s performance were the audience, and then only figuratively. Greasy R&B shouter Andre Williams got on stage just as the rain began to taper away. His backing band lately has been Toronto’s the Strap; they aren’t quite the backing band the Sadies or The Countdowns were, and Williams’ sleazy schtick was not nearly as compelling as the looming presence of Pinetop Perkins on the main stage. Pinetop Perkins! Muddy Waters’ piano player must be among the last of the legendary bluesmen. Decked out in a big black cowboy hat, the stylish 80-year-old ably demonstrated he still has what it takes on the 88s. 'Steady Rollin' Bob Margolin, another Waters’ sideman was there as well, but it was Perkins who really lived up to the legend. The Chickens aren’t quite as legendary as Perkins, but four of the band’s five members were in UIC, a band some call the best Canadian rock’n’roll act of the 1980s; their 'In My Garage' is something of an anthem for Canadian rockers. Frontman Dave Robinson shakes and shivers like a man with his finger stuck in a socket, while the band’s energetic rock attack is a no-frills wonder. The band’s first Ottawa show a few years back easily ranks in my Top 5 of all time; they weren’t quite as fantastic this time, but they were close. As an added bonus, powerpop guitarist Chris Page of the Stand GT guested on the band’s 'Bossman'.Great. Next up, a new band of Detroit rock veterans, The Shanks. Although their most famous member, guitarist Jeff Meier, was once a member of Detroit hard rock combo Rocket 455, their opening number, 'Cutie Named Judy' had a rockabilly flavour to it. The rest of the band’s performance also drew heavily on the music of the 50s and 60s. They were entertaining, but things really began to spark when famed Northern Soul star Nathaniel Mayer jumped on stage for an unscheduled run through of three of his songs, including 'Village of Love' and 'Love and Affection'. Mayer released 'Village' in 1962 — if he’s slowed down since then, he must have been a hurricane four decades ago. His falsetto-to-growl voice was in excellent form, and he tore the place up in the space of a few minutes. The Shanks wound things up with a few heartily applauded numbers, and it was time to make a tough decision: Go home for dinner? O go and watch comedians Dan Aykroyd and Jim Belushi and their ersatz Blues Brothers show, Have Love Will Travel. I went home for a bit of ham. I dare say the people who watched Aykroyd and Belushi had the same .... In any listing of the top garage revival bands of all time, The Cynics are sure to be either near or at the top of the list (particularly these days — has anyone heard from The Lyres lately?). Stoic guitarist (and Get Hip supremo) Greg Kostelich conjured an amazing wall of fuzz from his Gretsch, one lonely pedal and some Fender amps while singer Michael Kastelic stalked the stage, mic cable wrapped around his forearm while he howled, moaned and shrieked his way through the band’s lengthy repertoire. Tom Hohn, The Cynics’ regular drummer, was replaced by a dreadlocked Nate Arling, who kept up a thunderous backbeat with a cymbal-heavy attack most appropriate for the open-air venue. The band’s lineup was filled out with Lucia Rujas on Farfisa — a very sexy presence pumping away on her organ.One audience-member, face smeared with mud from the drenched grounds, was moved to leap up on stage not once but twice. A sozzled Eddie Baranek of the Sights was also seen in the front row (and heard heckling ... what was that about Pittsburgh?). It was a very satisfying closure to Saturday’s lineup, marred only by some drunken antics involving the mud-smeared stagejumper. Sunday, July 13 Holy Hell, the barebones rock trio which opened for Outrageous Cherry and the Immortal Lee County Killers when those two bands passed through Ottawa started things up with their beat-heavy, Velvet Underground-friendly sound. Gloomy weather kept the audience small, but didn’t dampen the band’s performance. They were followed by another trio, the heavy blues and soul-rocking Shikasta from Toronto. Singer-bassist Russ has an excellent, soulful voice, and the band fairly thundered through their set. Next came Starvin Hungry, a Montreal band featuring John Milchem (twin brother of noted Blue Rodeo drummer Glenn). His theatrical vocals set the band apart, and his excellent songs are well served by a band that includes Eric Larock, formerly of Tricky Woo, on bass. Guitarist Scott Mucklow is a particularly intense performer; their forthcoming debut album promises to be great. I slipped away to see Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys. Their music combines rockabilly sand western swing with a host of other pre-Beatles musical influences. Big Sandy’s singing brings Roy Orbison to mind. The band has been performing for at least two decades, and they are masters of their instruments, playing with incredibly taste and musicality. One enthused fan begged for a version of 'Hot Water' which they happily provided. “I see Detroit’s in the house,” Big Sandy declared, having seen Nathaniel Mayer in the audience. “Boy I saw you blow the roof off the Ponderosa in New Orleans ... I’m not even sure it’s standing ...” That enthusiastic endorsement led many people to go to Mayer’s scheduled show at the Birdman Stage. Unfortunately, as the 4:05 showtime rolled around, Mayer wasn’t among them — he was still back watching Big Sandy (well, who could blame him ...), so The Shanks, his backing band on this tour, zipped through a couple of songs before Mayer was located and retrieved. He took the stage in white tails and once again blew the audience away; his performance culminated with a trio of ladies from the audience shaking their thing on stage and an encore of 'Love and Affection'. He was undoubtedly one of Bluesfest’s must-sees. Toronto’s Bionic features former Doughboy Jonathan Cummings, but don’t expect his old band’s off-kilter powerpop. Instead, think of the Queens of the Stone Age if Nick Oliveri wrote and sang all the songs and never turned his amp down from 11. Perhaps a week of music had left me disinclined to enjoy a musical pummelling, but after 15 minutes I stopped regretting having missed them during previous visits to Ottawa. The audience was enthused, but they didn’t offer anything to my ears except volume (mind you, they are awful photogenic, if you like beards). The Sights were also disappointing, but that was only in light of the stellar performance they gave at their Ottawa show last year. Drummer Dave Shettler was his usual super self, but Eddie Baranek seemed a little ragged. Even though the band isn’t capable of being less than good, they only got to the foothills of excellence when, on better days, they’ve gotten to the peak. Texas Troubadour Jimmy Dale Gilmore was my next go-see. Accompanied by an acoustic guitarist, his high lonesome tenor and fine songcraft provided some laid back entertainment to a largely grey-haired audience. Finally, it was time for the most anticipated show, for me, of the entire Bluesfest: The Dirtbombs. I’ve loved everything frontman Mick Collins has done, from the legendary Gories, the Imperial Sound Quartet, Blacktop, the Screws, to his current band. Bassist Ko Shih put out a fabulous album as Ko and the Knockouts (it also featured Eddie Baranek). Fireplug-shaped second Jim Diamond , apart from his work with the Witches, has recorded and engineered some of Detroit’s best records, including the White Stripes’ first two. Drummers Benjamin Blackwell and Patrick Pantano would be great in their own right — as a duo they’re an unstoppable rhythmic force. Thankfully for my hopes and dreams, they provided as awesome a capper to the 10-day festival as anyone could hope. The band played several songs from an album slated for release in October, as well as excellent covers of Curtis Mayfield’s 'Kung Fu' (neatly replicating the pings and beeps from the version on 'Ultraglide in Black' with some digital delay manipulation by Diamond).Collins’ gritty soulful vocals were excellent, and Ko’s ultrafuzzy bass riffs were a cool alternative to a rhythm guitar. The show finished with an acrobatic encore — Blackwell deserted his kit to jump on Diamond’s bass cabinet and climb from there into the rafters. As he swung from the rafters, Sights drummer Dave Shettler raced on stage to take his place. Blackwell then leapt down to the stage, jumped on his own drum kit and began thumping away in time with Shettler. The Pantano left his drum kit — Shettler switched over to it — and made a grab for Collins’ guitar. Apparently, a thrown drum stool had disabled it in the preceding chaos though, so the band took their bows and left to wild applause from the standing room only audience. The photographs that vaccompnay this article were yaken by Andrew Carver

Picture Gallery:-
Miscellaneous - Ottawa,  7/7/2003-13/7/2003

Miscellaneous - Ottawa,  7/7/2003-13/7/2003

Miscellaneous - Ottawa,  7/7/2003-13/7/2003

Miscellaneous - Ottawa,  7/7/2003-13/7/2003

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